Top 10 must remember when inviting young people to be photographers of their learning

Framing an image (N.Lemon, 2012)

I’m a huge advocate of young people as capable photographers. The digital camera becomes an accessible, handheld and portable digital technology that assists the young people to be photographers of their observations. Situated in learning environments across multiple sites, the possibility of the digital camera to be a technology that supports alternative ways of reflection, sharing voice and insights into observations and meaning making is very powerful. There is ample opportunity for teachers and other adults to also learn from this way of communicating.  However, in advocating the possibilities of young people being photographers and using their images as a way to communicate their thinking and reflections, there are some logistical issues associated to using a digital camera that are required in order to not hinder the process. Here are my Top 10 must remembers….

No. 1: Teach the young people how to use the camera prior to the event – familiarization, trial and error, practice, problem solve, opportunities to ask questions, and touch and use are all a part of the discovery of using such a technology and a must do in order to scaffold successful use. Educating about the camera’s technical capabilities are just as important as teaching how to compose a photograph as well as focus, framing, and zoom.

No. 2: Trust that the young people are capable photographers. Once given the skills young people are very proficient at knowing exactly what they want to capture and why. They may click quick but don’t underestimate their ability to capture exactly what they saw.

No. 3: Make sure the batteries are charged…no battery power = no camera power and a very unhappy child.

No. 4: Trust that the young people can respect and take care of the equipment. As with any mobile hand held technology making sure any little accidents can be preventable is smart thinking. In the case of the digital camera, utilizing the strap and placing it around an individuals wrist assists in a mistaken tap or knock and saves any bouncing off floors.

Familiarising oneself with the digital camera (N.Lemon, 2012).

No. 5: Encourage peer teaching with the use of the digital camera. The spontaneous discussions and problem solving associated to the use of the digital camera are incredibly supportive of the process itself.

No. 6: Encourage discussions about what is being photographed and why. The sharing of perspectives is very supportive of the learning process, as well the reflective and metacognitive abilities of the young people.

No. 7: Watch and help when asked for assistance, and what ever you do don’t take over –as an adult there are times when you just can’t help take over or you are so excited you wish you could use the digital camera to make sure you don’t miss anything. Remember you don’t want to become the pushy adult, rather let the young person problem solve with your assistance, otherwise how will they learn for next time the same query emerges?

No. 8: Let the young people photograph what they want, not what you guide them to take because you think it is interesting. The wondrous benefit of supporting young people to be photographers of their world is that they are sharing an insight into their experiences, thoughts, ideas and queries. Celebrate this opportunity even if it challenges your sense of teacher centered learning verses student centered learning.

No. 9: Be open to what the young people photograph – their insights are rewarding in themselves and can tell a lot about their learning experiences and meaning making.

Tip 10: Don’t nag with the line “have you taken enough photos yet?”. Let the young people inquire and explore at their own pace.


What other tips would you offer in supporting young people to be photographers?

How have you used the technology with young people?


Other links of interest:

Kids with cameras

Digital cameras as renewed technology in a gallery: Young people as photographers of their learning

Looking through the eyes of a child through the lens of a camera

Gallery and museums considerations for digital technology – participating in your experience

Using Visual Narrative for Reflection

Richness of children’s narratives




One thought on “Top 10 must remember when inviting young people to be photographers of their learning

  1. Jonathan O'Donnell says:

    My friend Liddy Nevile was one of the pioneers of laptops in the classroom. I think that she would agree wholeheartedly with this.

    She once described telling a school to put the boxes with their brand new (and oh so expensive) laptops in the classroom with the kids and then LEAVE THE ROOM. Give the kids space to own the technology, make their own and explore it. Let them make mistakes with it and learn from one another. Let them incorporate it into their endless social discourse on who is the leader and perhaps let it upset the status quo a bit.

    Great post! Thanks.

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